Histria, the oldest town attested on Romania’s present territory
Histria fortress was the first Greek colony on the West of the Black Sea and the oldest city on Romanian territory. It has been founded in the middle of the 7th century B.C. (657 B.C. according to Eusebius) by Milet colonists. The fortress is located 65 kilometers from Constanta in Istria village. Submitted on 13 February 2007 on the European Heritage List, Histria is considered the oldest urban settlement in the country.
The city had a continuous development for 1300 years starting with the Greek period up to the Roman – Byzantine period. At the end of the 6th and during the 7th century A.D. the fortress has been destroyed by the Avar-Slavic invasions, which determined its inhabitants to abandon the city.
The ruins of the fortress remained unknown for a long period of time and have been identified in 1868 by French archaeologist Ernest Desjardins and explored for the first time in 1914 by the Romanian archeologist Vasile Pârvan.
However, Histria’s feature is represented by the importance of the religious life that used to play a major role here. Archaeological research conducted in these regions led to the discovery of some shrines dedicated to Greek gods, other than Zeus, namely Athena, Hermes, Aphrodite, and Dionysus.
The Greek culture puts a strongly influence on the Pontic fortresses. In each of them there are at least a theater, sports arenas, gymnasiums for youth education and Palestra Exercise.
Histria’s boom knows a strong downfall during the 2nd century BC, due to the closure of the Gulf with sand which practically turns into today’s Sinoe Lake. Without the benefits of a harbor to the Black Sea and with the huge pressure for paying taxes, Histria gradually begins to decay.
Being under the rule of King Burebista for a little while, Histria accepts Roman domination immediately after his assassination in 44 BC. This period of time marked the second stage in the history of the city. But the decline of the Roman Empire also prompted Histria’s decline. Histria would never experience again the brilliance that it had in the Hellenistic era.
Turned into ruins by the invaders in the year 248, the city reduced its living space to half, while in the seventh century it was permanently abandoned. This completes almost 1,300 years of a city that dominated the Pontic space. Its majestic edifices will experience a continuous degradation, and for hundreds of years they will be forgotten underground. Located in about 65 kilometers from Constanta, on the way to Tulcea, Histria is today perhaps the greatest archaeological reserve of our country.
Today, tourists can visit what is left of the old city. The walls are the first to remember the grandeur of the construction. Probably the most beautiful area of ??the city is that of the temples, shrines and sacred wells from the Hellenistic era. Roman influence can be seen in the famous public baths (Thermae), supplied through aqueducts that brought water from about 30 kilometers away, the prison tower (used as a weapons depot) and the mounts of earth material that protected the city from external attacks.